In Manitoba in 1996, 13.2% of Aboriginal children aged 0-14 were not living with their parents, a figure about seven times that for non-Aboriginal children. This proportion is ordinarily higher on reserves and rural off-reserve locations, and lower in urban areas.5 Of the many possible reasons for children not living with parents, apprehension by Child and Family Services may be the most common, particularly among Status Indians. Of 32,000 Status Indians aged 0-14 counted in the 1996 Census, about 3,000 were in the care of child and family services.
Manitoba places children into care at a high rate in general: 16.6 per 1,000 children, as compared to 9.7 in Saskatchewan and 10.0 in Alberta.6 These children ordinarily reside in foster or group homes. The number of children in care rose steadily to about 5,300 in 1994/5, and has remained at this level each year in the late 1990's.
Aboriginal children are over-represented among children in CFS care. Of 5,389 children in care on 31 March 1997, 3,071 or 57% were Status Indians. An additional 326 or 6.1% were Metis, and 362 or 6.7% non-Status or Inuit.7 So, Aboriginal children, representing about 20% of the child population, comprised at least 70% of the children in care (a further 417 children, or 7.7%, were not identified as either Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal).
The Ma Mawi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg, established in 1984, provides child and family services to Aboriginal children of Winnipeg. It is a non-mandated agency, meaning that it has no power to remove children from their families.
Mandated child and family services for off-reserve Aboriginal children are under provincial jurisdiction, and are administered by the mainstream CFS agencies. In Winnipeg, Aboriginal children currently account for about 70% of the children in care.8 According to a 1998 Winnipeg CFS report, the number of Aboriginal children in its care tripled over the previous decade, while the number of non-Aboriginal children in care declined.9
Manitoba Metis children appear to be only slightly over-represented among children in care, except in the Parkland region (i.e. Dauphin/Swan River), where they were 53% of the children in care in 1997 (63 of 118 children). The largest number of Metis children in care are in Winnipeg (192 of 326), but this is only 7.2% of children in care of Winnipeg CFS.10 Children (aged 0-14) identified as Metis in the Census are 5% of the children in Winnipeg.
By contrast, both Status and non-Status Indians are extremely over-represented among children in care. For example, in Winnipeg in 1997, the 987 Status children in care represented 37% of all children in care, though Status children were only 6.3% of the child population. A Status child in Winnipeg is therefore six times as likely to be removed from the family as the average child.
Province-wide, the over 3,000 Status children in care were distributed among agencies as follows:
Since the 1980's, First Nations-controlled child and family service agencies have been mandated to serve the on-reserve population. Dakota-Ojibway Tribal Council established Canada's first mandated Aboriginal CFS agency in 1981. There are currently seven agencies, as indicated on the above chart. In 1997, 1,609 Status children were in the care of these agencies, or 53% of Status children in care.11 Because 58% of Status children live on reserve, this indicates that on-reserve Status children are less likely to be taken into care than off reserve, but that the difference is slight. Children apprehended by the on-reserve CFS agencies, however, are more likely to be placed within the community and, if possible, the extended family.
The number of Status children in the care of the First-Nations controlled CFS agencies increased from 61% in 1984 to 69% in 1990.12 It has since decreased to 53% in 1997, despite a slight increase in the proportion of Status children living on reserve. The decrease is due to (1) the rapid increase in the number of off-reserve children in the care of the mainstream CFS agencies, especially in Winnipeg, (2) efforts to find family-based solutions by the First Nations CFS agencies, and (3) lack of funding and mandate to extend First Nations CFS services off reserve. The result is that relatively fewer Status children were in the care of the First Nations agencies in the 1990s than in the 1980s.
The Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission appointed by the provincial government in 1999 made as its first recommendation the extension of Aboriginal-controlled CFS agencies off reserve. In February 2000, the province signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the MMF that will lead to the establishment of a province-wide child and family services system for Metis people, including adoption services.13 A similar MOU was subsequently signed with First Nations regarding mandated services for off-reserve members. Implementation plans are currently under development.